In late 2019, Paradox Interactive released another colony management game in the “Surviving” series titled Surviving the Aftermath. But make no mistake, it’s not the same as Surviving Mars, which was more futuristic and cute. Surviving the Aftermath is gritty and meant to be tough because the world has been savaged and wrecked by pollution, raiders, and mother nature. The objective in this colony management game is to make sure you people survive in the harsh environment. Like Surviving Mars, players choose their difficulty level at the beginning and the level of challenge is determined by the players’ decisions at this stage.
Beginning the game, I started off easy, choosing the best-case scenario for each section until I received a low percentage. I do this to get a sense of a game before taking on a more challenging map, which I ultimately did for a second playthrough. On the easiest difficulty map, my worst issues were nuclear waste patches poisoning my colonists and I had an abundance of resources which forced me to grab other survivors when they appeared at my gate. After surviving a heatwave, I had a decent handle on the game, leading me to play on a higher difficulty.
On the second playthrough where I added a bit of challenge, I was hit with a heatwave (which I was almost unprepared for) and a meteor strike that took out a number of my tents. And while both events weren’t too challenging to deal with, I still feel like my decisions weren’t enough.
I found that my games left me with some minor issues that would benefit the game like a way to upgrade buildings easily – which is a feature that many management games have. However, the biggest issue with the title is that the colonists don’t move supplies! For example, as players accepts new colonists, they are given a specialist who can explore the surrounding area on the world map. These specialists can attack the bandits, retrieve supplies from abandoned structures, and can initiate trade deals with neighboring townships. That is all well and good but each specialist can only move so far per turn; a restriction that isn’t a problem, but it is aggravating to manually deliver those supplies home. When they do arrive, supplies are not picked up by idling colonists to place in warehouses or stockpiles, they are left at the gate!
If players want to progress in Surviving the Aftermath, they will need to acquire research on the World Map. This forces the idea that players have to send out their specialists to find the research needed. Although, there are times where players can gain some research by fulfilling colonist’s desires to experiment. Sometimes, colonists will end up injured or infected, where other times granting the expeditions earns the player supplies, research, or a happiness boost. My minor issue with the research is that when a specialist finds a building that has some, it takes several turns of moving them back onto the building to collect more than one batch.
From what I’ve gathered from the roadmap and friends owning the game before I had access to it, the tech tree was overhauled. It is now split into five categories: Food, Production, Colony, Security, and Exploration. Each category has its uses like being able to generate power through solar panels or wind turbines. Under Food, players can research the ability to farm basic crops, which is quite handy to have. In the Colony tech tree, players are able to research larger lodging for their colonists, which is particularly useful when groups of survivors show up at your gate in search of shelter. Regardless, each category has a number of upgrades that help the colony’s survival, complete with a cost and the time it’ll take to finish the research. Unlike other colony management games that have extensive tech trees, Surviving the Aftermath has a decent amount of research items without feeling overwhelming to the player. Although, I can see how easier modes would make it extremely easy to burn through each tree, especially since the costs don’t increase drastically. I imagine this might be because finding the resources to use the new buildings or abilities are harder to find.
Before I realized there was an option to turn on auto-saving (as in, that isn’t enabled right away), my game crashed once. I hadn’t saved in several days and lost the buildings and research that I had completed before the crash. When I reloaded the game, a different set of circumstances were presented to me, meaning that Surviving the Aftermath has a lot of replayability.